John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
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Ophrys grassoana 


O. grassoana was first described from Linguaglossa, Sicily by Cristaudo, Golesi and Zelesny in 2010 and is a member of the O. sphegodes group of Ophrys.

This species had been known from the north eastern foothills of Mount Etna for some years but until it was formally recognized in 2010,  had languished in un-named obscurity, being variously viewed as a variety of O. sphegodes or perhaps a semi stabilized hybrid involving O. passionis, a species to which it bears a close resemblance.

The full range and population density of O. grassoana has not yet been fully established but it is currently thought to be a scarce orchid, growing in small colonies in a limited area centred on the town of Linguaglossa that lies in the northern shadow of Etna. This is a district heavily scarred by volcanic activity and particularly lava trails and fields of varying ages and states of stabilisation. O. grassoana shows a preference for flows that are of relatively recent origin, being at its most frequent on those that were thrown up during the last hundred years. This is a habitat that does not support too many orchid species, O. brancifortii being one of the few that shows a similar tolerance.

O. grassona is quite distinctive and shows little variation. The stigmatic cavity is always dark, the perianth is green with occasional pink blotching and there is normally a broad yellow margin to the lip. Pilosity is at its heaviest, though not confined to the lateral lobes and the lobes themselves are well defined but small. It's in flower from late March to April and the pictures here come from a site along the Via Maraneve to the east of Linguaglossa, dating from the beginning of April.